Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Gaming Inspiration from Artemis by Andy Weir

My mom sent me a copy of Andy Weir's sophomore novel Artemis as a Christmas present, and I read it a few weeks ago. It's a pretty decent book, telling the story of Jazz Bashara, a porter and smuggler living in the first city on the Moon. She gets involved in a corporate espionage plot to leverage existing lunar resources for a mysterious new technology, but the lunar resources are currently controlled by some ruthless folks...

I don't want to spoil the plot. It was pretty good. It made me laugh in parts, and had some pretty exciting scenes, some interesting intrigue, and some solid scientific backing for things going on. I'd say it wasn't quite as good as Weir's debut book The Martian, but it was solid. [For comparison, I read The Martian and Ready Player One back to back, and enjoyed both but liked RPO a bit more. I'd say I enjoyed Artemis a lot more than Armada, the follow up from RPO's author Ernest Cline.]

A few things in Artemis made me think that they'd be useful to think about the next time I run a sci-fi game that's not already in an established setting (or something like Star Frontiers where only the briefest details are given and left for the GM to flesh out).

The lunar city can't mint their own currency, but they use 'slugs' or soft-landed grams. Want stuff shipped to the moon? You've got an allowance in weight from the company every month. You can trade your weight allowances to others. Hence it's a de facto currency. I also recently read Joe Haldeman's The Forever War (yes, I should have read it years ago...I've got a long list of books I 'should have read years ago' and I'm making progress on them) in which the war caused massive food shortages, rationing, etc. and the world currency becomes Calories.

Sci Fi games tend to use generic 'credits' as money in the game, but next game I run the 'credits' will be backed by something the way they are in these two books. It should add a bit to the immersion in the setting, and also hopefully give the players ideas for creative solutions and myself ideas for creative problems in the game.

The next thing is that Artemis really drilled home how hazardous it can be to go around in EVA suits. (Of course in The Forever War the combat suits they wore had many of the same problems at first, but as technology advances in that book which takes place over centuries, many of them get fixed.) In a space age but not radically advanced sci fi setting, just climbing over rocks in a pressure suit can be risking your life. Leaks are hard to stop, and suits can get damaged easily, and the vacuum of space will show you no mercy. It's no wonder that most sci fi stories take place on what Star Trek considers 'class M' planets or on the ships. Next game, if it's not super-advanced tech level (or even if it is), I need to remember that a moon, asteroid, or planet with no atmosphere can be a challenge without ever needing to break down into combat. Poisonous atmospheres as well, although that's maybe a bit easier to deal with than vacuum.

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